By Cathy Cavender
Sue started recruiting the parents of the girls she coached to form committees, including hospitality and publicity. One father, Doug Smith, applied to Verizon, his employer, for an education grant. The company ended up becoming the event's lead sponsor. Ultimately, more than 200 moms and dads pitched in. Within just two months, 37 gyms in five states had committed to sending 1,200 girls to the competition, dubbed the Pink Invitational—Gymnasts Unite. "When the tickets sold out, it was a huge moment," says Sue.
The weeks leading up to the meet were busy for the Weldons. Sue's husband, Chip, created the initial website (since redesigned by a local firm). Her daughter, Corrine, then 12, prepped to compete. Sons Taylor and Evan recruited their hockey and lacrosse teams to assemble the multiple sets of equipment—including uneven parallel bars, balance beams and vaults—that such a big meet required. "They were so excited to be a part of it," says Sue.
Taking place over three days in February 2009, the first Pink meet was everything Sue had envisioned. "All the girls marching in carrying banners printed with words like 'courage,' 'strength,' 'hope'—it was beautiful," she says. In addition to the competition, there were guest speakers on healthy lifestyles, yoga classes for the girls and an expo area with tables featuring organic food, makeup and cleaning solutions. Sue's daughter, Corrine, walked away with the Spirit of Character award honoring her positivity despite a disappointing performance on the balance beam. But Corrine, who had been in first grade when Sue was diagnosed, felt her mom was the real winner that day.
"When the announcer introduced my mom to give the opening remarks," she says, "I was so proud of her."
A backdrop to the event was a quilt hanging in the gym with a square for each of the competing teams, made by the Curtis sisters and their grandmother, who had passed away the previous month. The first Pink Invitational raised $65,000. The event had been a huge success, but it was barely over when Sue began dreaming up ways to make the next one even more spectacular.